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Sunday, November 27, 2011

National Day of Theocracy, more like

I was in the room while my parents were watching the Hope Channel yesterday evening when a show called Global Faith and Freedom, which discusses issues of religious liberty came on. The topic of discussion was the issue of the National Day of Prayer in the United States. It was really more of a circle jerk than a debate, with the host and all three guests masturbating over how awesome and good and totally not unconstitutional the Day of Prayer is, which left me thinking "what's the point of all of this, anyway?"

I wasn't listening much while I was in the room, and wound up having to leave because every word I did hear was really just driving me mad, but I do believe there was some side issue they were discussing, more about the exclusion of certain religious groups from official proceedings at the White House or Pentagon or wherever raising concern about the neutrality of the government. I think this discussion completely missed the point - separation of church and state is not simply about not supporting one faith group above all others, or hindering one against all others, and is definitely not about supporting all religions equally. The state should have nothing at all to do with supporting religion. The issue has been raised before about such events excluding a significant and ever growing segment of the population - those who have no religion - not to mention that it draws unnecessary time and resources.

I was a bit surprised at the stance the program took on the issue. Such ecumenical "uniting of faiths" is just the sort of thing I would have expected Seventh-Day Adventists to be dead set against, what with the fact that the end will be brought about by the Antichrist forming just such a union of religions. I wonder, is this apparent cognitive dissonance brought about by the usual Christian priviledge, or is it out of some gleeful subconscious desire to accelerate the "end times".

Thursday, November 10, 2011

About a speck

I was doing some gardening earlier this evening, admiring the full moon and Jupiter in the Eastern sky when I noticed a bright speck moving in from the North. The speck was moving quite fast, headed right for Jupiter, and from my vantage point passed less than a finger's breadth from the big guy. I continued to track the speck until it disappeared behind a stand of trees - my Stellarium tells me that if I'd had a clear horizon, I'd have been able to see the speck until it set further South. What's so special about this speck, one may ask. What's so different about it compared to all the other specks in the sky, both those that are relatively stationary from our perception and others like it that move perceptibly. Well, the special thing about that speck is that it had people on it.


The speck was the International Space Station, hurtling four hundred kilometers above the Earth, carrying a crew of American, Russian and Japanese astronauts. It's been all of humanity's shot at having a permanent space presence for over 11 years now. I used to get out and take a look at the Station whenever I could but haven't done so in a long time, so that, coupled with the chance alignment with Jupiter, made this time particularly poignant for me. To think that there are human beings "up there", doing research and looking down upon the curve of the Earth, is a magnificent thought. It boggles the mind to think that there are people living, breathing and working on that little speck. And yet we know that if you go out far enough, even the Earth itself, the hub of all human activity, where we work, share, love and live out our entire existence, looks like a bright speck.

My favorite picture of that speck. Saturn always makes everything more beautiful.

It is my fervent hope that even if I may not be able to view Earth from such a position, one day my descendents will, and they will remember the intrepid men and women who pioneered it all, even though they only went but a stone's throw from their planet.

I'll leave you with the immortal words of Carl Sagan (who would have been 77 yesterday):


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sabbath School 05/11/11 - I'm no masochist

The natives were fasting yesterday, then went on to have an all-night prayer to sprinkle some Jesus Magic on an upcoming crusade they're holding over the next two weeks (not that kind of crusade. They don't do those anymore - it's just a two week long preach fest, though one has to question the taste of calling them after such a violent era). Needless to say, I participated in neither - I had three full, healthy meals and went on to double-break the Sabbath by splitting a takeout with a buddy, then went home, watched the new Pirates movie (which was terrible) and had a good night's sleep.

The whole affair - the fasting and sleep deprivation, as well as the greater blanket issue of asceticism, smacks of masochism. Dictionary.com defines masochism thusly:

mas·och·ism

[mas-uh-kiz-uhm, maz-]
noun

2. gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc.,inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one'sown actions or the actions of others, especially thetendency to seek this form of gratification.

I do believe strongly religious people gain some gratification from their pain, just as much as the more fanatical auto-flagellants do, the difference being that religiously motivated masochists have developed a rationale behind their actions. Those who fast tell me that it gets them closer to god, that they can feel a stronger connection being forged and that their prayers are being heard. Of course, I'd argue that it's more likely the lack of food affecting their brain, but that's just me. Among Adventists (at least locally, anyway) such self-denialist streaks run even deeper than the occasional fast. Especially around older folks, you get the feeling that simply having any sort of fun is wrong. Last Sunday, I was at a friend's birthday party, and the amount of supplication that went on just dazzled me. Before anything had begun, there were pleas for god to forgive everyone in advance for any sins they may commit and a blessing for everyone to enjoy themselves, "but not too much" in case they sinned, then after it all, another prayer for god to forgive everyone's sins, both those they committed "knowingly" and "unknowingly". Frankly, this brings images of an abusive relationship, where one partner is so afraid of angering the abusive partner that they are constantly begging for forgiveness and limiting their activities in order to avoid arousing their ire.

All this is simply another way religion poisons peoples' minds, limiting their view of the world and their enjoyment of life.

**

If this piece seemed a little disjointed, forgive me. I actually watched considerably more than the Pirates movie last night.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sabbath School 29/10/11 - Fiction

In our local Adventist churches, there is always a story told for the children before the main sermon every Sabbath. Usually, these take the form of morality tales that reinforce simple values like kindness and honesty, or retell Bible stories in the form of modern allegories. Occasionally, though, you'll get the miracle stories. Many are innocent enough - "answered prayers" wierd coincidences that are attributed to God and such, but sometimes there'll be truly fantastical ones, which tend for some reason to always be the ones set in rural Africa. The one we ahd last week was one of the former type. It was about a couple of kids who were lost in the bush when they came across a lion. One of them remembers that their mother had told them that they should sing if ever they're cornered by a lion, so they start singing one of the well known hymns and the lion leaves them be. A short while later, some villagers who'd been looking for them arrive at the scene. They remark that they'd been led there when they heard a multitude of voices singing, the implication being that angels had joined the kids and scared the lion away.

"Well, it's just a story," some might say. What's wrong with that? Well, I have no problem with stories. I do have a problem, however, when they're being peddled to children in order to reinforce superstition. We can almost be certain that no such event has ever happened, but a child has no way of knowing that. To a child, everything you tell them is true. Every word is laden with vivid fact and they find it hard to tell what is true, what is allegory and what is pure imagination. Fairy tales also deliver to kids the same type of feeling, one of wonder at things which are not 100% true. Unlike fairytales, however, stories told in a religious setting are reinforced and never revealed outright to be simply imagination conveying a message. In the same breath, children are also told similarly fantastic stories from the Bible, which they are told are 100% infallible truth. Such stories wind up being a tool for crushing minds to better take in religious indoctrination - the child grows up with a stunted ability to tell the difference between fact and fiction, ripe for inculcating with all sorts of superstition, stories of miracles and the like.

Tomorrow, I will talk about the admissibility of stories as evidence, with particular attention paid to miracle stories.

***



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The death-knell for institutionalised homophobia in Zimbabwe?




In a recent interview with the BBC, Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe expressed his wish to see gay rights protected in the a new constitution, a message completely different from views he expressed a year ago, when he supported President Robert Mugabe's sentiment that gays were "worse than pigs and dogs". There has been some speculation as to the reasons for this dramatic change of heart, with some saying it is to "appease his Western masters" and similar allegations. Without a doubt the incumbent is going to try to use this to sway people's vote come the next election, but at least its a step in the right direction. Hopefully, if he's really serious about this and doesn't go changing his mind later down the line and the memory of the suffering of previous years will be enough to override peoples' prejudices, we may see the basic right to love legally protected in Zimbabwe come the next election.

Still, the very fact that taking this liberal stance may jeopardise Tsvangirai's position in the upcoming elections is unacceptable. I've heard it expressed by people that the reason Mugabe has retained power for so long is that God placed him there because of his strong homophobic stance, so that legislation protecting gay rights could not be passed in Zimbabwe. So what this means basically is that God, in all his mercy would rather see thousands brutally assaulted and killed and millions more suffering under the yoke of oppression than allow gays the rights to live their lives in peace and without fear of legally backed hatred. Not only is that morally reprehensible, it is despicable, and no loving god would ever do such a thing.

But of course, God is simply people's projection of such people's own psyche, possessing their prejudices, and such moral paradoxes are the simple proof of this fact. If people could look beyond such dogma, superstition and close-mindedness and base their morality on a common respect and compassion for their fellow man the world would be a much sweeter place for all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Am an Atheist

Got round to penning my story in response to PZ Myers' call to submit our reasons for being atheists. A more detailed account is still in the works. I haven't blogged much about my brush - oh, hell it was a goddamn scrub-down - with von Danikenism and it occurs to me that I should. Consider a series examining the Ancient Astronaut hypothesis in the works.

---

Growing up in Zimbabwe presented many challenges. Calling anyone "middle class" was a joke - you were either filthy rich, struggled to make ends meet or were so poor words could not begin to describe it. My family was part of that second group - we lived comfortably, but only just. I'm an ex-fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, which, considering that Adventism has been in Zimbabwe for about four generations is really something. One thing I can truly thank my parents for is that they never compromised on my education. My brothers and I always went to private school, even if it meant we had to cut back on a few luxuries to do so. I was also always very inquisitive, very much a nerd and had a deep love for science that my mother encouraged. I read a lot of books, particularly about physics, astronomy and dinosaurs so questions were inevitable. I was an introspective child, though, so I tended to keep those questions to myself and try to figure things out on my own.

At twelve I was baptised into the church. I think this was the turning point at which I began to come to terms with reality, because it forced me to examine what I believed and why I believed it, where previously I could just drift along and pretend there was no conflict between my faith and my aspirations to be a scientist. It wasn't an easy journey, but less than eight months later, I came to the conclusion that God as envisioned by any Earthly religion does not exist. I still thought a higher being of some kind was possible, and so became somewhat of an agnostic.

The biggest problem I had at this stage of my life was that I had nothing concrete to fill the gap my faith left behind. One practical upshot of my country and my family's financial state was that I had no access to the solid facts I needed - I had no access to the internet and what little I did know came from the now too vague books I could access from the kids' section of the library. I was growing ever more hungry for knowledge, and would gobble up any little morsel I could get, regardless of quality. In time, this led me to a brush with pseudoscience no better than the faith I had recently forsaken.

Rifling through some old books at my grandmother's house, I found a bunch by a certain fellow called Erich von Daniken. They had the words "stars" and "space" in them , so reading was a no-brainer. What I read had me instantly hooked. Soon, I was proclaiming to all my friends how aliens had visited us in ages past and imparted us with intelligence. I was rattling off every single piece of "evidence" E vD presented - the Piri Reis map, the Ica stones, the Nasca lines, Puma Punku - with the utmost confidence that I'd finally found the truth. E vD did an excellent job of pretending to have that which I had been looking for all along - good, solid facts. His book "Miracles of the Gods" also fit in with the pseudo-mystical approach I had taken, and this led into a brief but retrospectively embarrassing flirtation with the Law of Attraction.

It was this phase, in which I wholeheartedly accepted such nonsense as is contained in "The Secret" and "What the Bleep Do We Know" that led to me taking another deep look at my beliefs. I noticed that all my "positive thinking" and meditating on the things I desired was getting me nowhere, and I started really thinking about how this actually worked. I realised that all this talk of "qantum-this" and "quantum-that" was simply a different term for the magic I used to believe in when I was still Christian. It did not take long for the rest of my belief in the supernatural to disappear, and eventually any concession of the possibility of the existence of a deity went down the drain as well.

I remember the first time I ever referred to myself as an atheist. I had just moved to a new school in Botswana. We were in a class Guidance and Counselling session and the counsellor asked me what religion I belonged to. Right there and then, I realised - much as I had once reviled those who were so "close-minded" as to outright deny the existence of a god, I had become one of them. With newfound conviction in my voice, I proudly answered, "I'm atheist." This was early in 2009, and I was 16, going on 17.

Perhaps not very oddly enough, I still lent some credence to Erich von Daniken's hypotheses. I would think to myself, "Okay, maybe he got the metaphysics wrong, but some of his facts must be right." I was also very critical of vocal atheists, even once writing a letter bashing Richard Dawkins over his hope that creating a cross between a human and chimp would end religion to the South African edition of Popular Mechanics. The Internet changed both these things, however. The Skeptic's Dictionary in particular demolished von Daniken's hypotheses, while reading of all the abuses to freedom that religion continues to perpetrate underscored the importance of activism to me.

I take a pragmatic view of the circuitous route I took to becoming rational: if it weren't for it I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't have experienced first hand how harmful and limiting believing in lies can be, and wouldn't be so passionate about eliminating them. It's not my lack of belief in gods that I count as my most important trait, though. I value being a rationalist because I choose to think, a skeptic because I choose to question, a humanist because I have compassion for my fellow man and have an unbridled love for the cosmos that drives me to achieve my dream of becoming an astrophysicist. It is from this dream that I draw the deepest meaning for my life: that of discovery, and questing to understand the universe we live in.

Jabu M
Botswana

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Laws of Creatodynamics

I'm not a very consistent blogger now, am I? I actually have quite a few ideas floating around my head, but hey, I'm a lazy bastard and just couldn't be arsed to commit them to words. Guess I'll never make it big in the bloggosphere, then.

Anyway, inspired by PZ Myers' recent commentary on the latest bit of brain poop to drop out of the Hovindverse, I give you the Laws of Creatodynamics, expressing the interplay between intelligence and stupidity in the Creatoverse (adapted from the real laws of thermodynamics).

  • Zeroth Law: When two individuals are as stupid as a third individual, they are as stupid as each other. (E.g. Eric Hovind is as stupid as Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron is as stupid as Ray Comfort, therefore Eric Hovind is as stupid as Kirk Cameron).

  • First Law: Intelligence can never be created, but is perpetually being destroyed. Similarly, Stupidity can never be destroyed but is perpetually being created. The reason for this situation is that as the Creationist movement is being assailed by ever increasing amounts of fact it is being driven to greater levels of absurdity to rationalise its position. The simple upshot of this is that Creationism is fast heading for the Stupidity Singularity, the point at which there is absolutely no intelligence left and pure, undiluted stupidity is all that remains. No one knows what will happen when this point is reached. Perhaps the movement will simply implode, leaving the rest of humanity to mop up and discard whatever is left of it. Perhaps the concentration of raw stupidity will strain the fabric of the universe, birth a god of unbridled stupidity in the immaterium while tearing reality a new asshole in the process.

  • Second Law: Intelligence cannot move from a stupider body to a more intelligent body.Makes sense, doesn't it? And it's also an observable effect: creationism has never produced anything of value to the scientific world, and it never will. Somewhat confusingly, the converse is also true: intelligence cannot move from a more intelligent body to a stupider body. Take a look at creationism in the 1900s and creationism today. There is practically no difference whatsoever between them. Pretty much the same arguments are still being used, no matter how often they have been addressed and debunked. The creationist movement learns nothing from the ever changing, ever expanding world of scientific knowledge. It only just keeps getting worse.

  • Third Law: Absolute zero intelligence is attainable. Take a look at what Hovind says again. 'Nuff said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Breaking Out, Breaking Down

So, I've got my internet back, and after a few solid weeks of leaching from the great blood vessel of knowledge I think it's time I seeded from the contents of my rich and beautiful mind. But first, let me catch you up on what's been going on in my life.

About a month ago I had a bit of a crisis because of which I came pretty damn close to coming out of the closet. Ours is a really small church, so it's impossible to hide behind other members - everyone is expected to pull their weight, be a part of running things and occasionally show their face up front. I've done so before without much of a problem, but things were different then. I was quite depressed at the time - things hadn't been going well in my life, I was hard at work self tutoring for my frickin A Levels and I didn't want to add to the stress by having to deal with the fallout of refusing to do it and possibly having to come out, so I sucked it up and did it, and managed to fake a smile while I was at it. Things had changed a month ago. I was feeling much better with myself, I'd been too late to register for exams this November and so will be writing next June, so a whole load of stress had been lifted off my shoulders. So when my mother told me I was supposed to be preaching the next Saturday I was just kind of like, "bleh". I really wasn't under any pressure and didn't care much.

It was the Friday before the big day that I started to freak out. I realised just how little I gave a damn, how I seriously couldn't be bothered to even pull something random out of my ass like I usually did when in this situation, and realised the implications of it. I was going to have to come out, tell everyone just why I couldn't stand up and defecate out of my mouth anymore. Looking for some assistance and support, I turned to the group Ex-Adventists and Seventh-day Atheists on Atheist Nexus. The conversation is on the comment wall. So thanks to advice from Dustin Williams (creator of the group and author of the great blog dwnomad) I decided to pull some stock sermon from the internet on a subject of basic morality and give that. I settled on this sermon, emphasising on how even the godless are moral folk and cutting out that downright libellous second paragraph. I'd then proceed to out myself that evening while everyone was having cake.

Well, things didn't quite go as planned. I discovered the next morning that I had been rescheduled - one of the church elders was taking that day and I would be preaching the next week. This kind of robbed me of my momentum. I decided not to do it that day and deliberate whether I would go for it sometime during the week. Other doubts began to crop up in my head - how would my parents react to my being atheist? Would they take away my allowance and computer privileges? Would I be forced to attend until the day I left home? My parents are pretty hard to read sometimes. At times I think they might be accepting and treat me like an adult. Then they say or do something that convinces me never, ever to say a thing. In the end I decided not to do it, but just do the sermon which was really about something every moral person ought to agree with. I ended up not having to give the sermon anyway - a visiting pastor was around and took over that week's activities.

Other than that, my life's been peachy. We just moved to a new neighbourhood and will probably be switching churches as well since our old one is now almost 30 minutes' dive away. The church we'll probably be moving to is much bigger than our old one, so I can blend in and keep a low profile. I promise I'll be a lot more active on the blogging front - I came to an epiphany a short while ago. Being an undercover atheist does have its advantages. Listening to all the kookoo things the religious people around me say gives me great ammo for my blog and allows me a glimpse into the psyche of the religious mind. So at the very least you can expect a weekly "Sabbath School" post about something I heard at church, as well as a few miscellaneous random things that kind of pop into my head. I'm also working on a series of essays detailing my journey to godlessness so that I can have a handy resource to point anyone wondering how I got where I am today and who wants to understand the reasoning behind the decisions I've made. I think they'll come invaluable when I finally do come out.

Also, metal!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Sabbath School 24/09/11 - An alternative interpretation of Matthew 24:24

As I was entering church this past Saturday (late as usual), someone was reading Matthew 24:24. I was immediately struck by a new interpretation of it I haven't heard before, and I'm wondering if any serious theologian/pastor has shat it out before. Matthew 24:24 reads:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

And this got me thinking: the false prophets aren't literally prophets. The signs and wonders are things we're already taking for granted every day: the healing of diseases, increased longevity, technology. I mean, we all know the cause of disease is demonic - the only force outside of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that can cast out demons is the master of those demonic powers themselves. Only the devil can extend the life of a human being beyond the three score years and ten our Heavenly Father hath allotted us, and the only thing outside of prayer that can allow instantaneous communication? Surely you agree with me - it has to be demonic. Those pictures you see on the television? Demons. You are inviting demonic forces into your house the moment you turn on that infernal device.

The coup de grace of the demonic deception is yet to come (for what prophet of doom worth his salt doesn't make up his own predictions?), in the form of a cure for cancer, HIV and all other of ailments God has poured out as a curse upon the sinners, satanic agents and homos (especially the homos) of this world, brought forth by the ritual demonic sacrifice of unborn children known as embryonic stem cell research and, worst of all (cue dramatic organ music), evolution.

The point of all of this will be to divert the sight of the world from the Lord and get them trusting in their own devices and their new god science. Undoubtedly, science is the greatest force driving skepticism and atheism today and has been driven from its very foundation by a diabolical agenda. You have been warned: do not partake of the forbidden fruits of science, lest you be deceived and pulled into its web as well.

And that also means my favourite reason for rejecting claims of gods, holy books and the supernatural - that science has done just fine without them and gone a long way towards disproving them - is all part of the satanic ploy...

---

P.S. - My official Back to Blogging post is coming later today or possibly tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hiatus...and To Hell With God

Just want to say that my internet is down, so to any followers - I won't be posting much for quite a while.


This track somehow found its way onto my playlist. It isn't the greatest composition ever, nor is it the paragon of lyrical genius, but hell, I just love the title.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What do Al Qaeda and William Lane Craig have in common?

The same justification for religiously sanctioned evil actions.

Over the weekend I read WLC's post justifying the genocide of the Canaanites recorded in the Old Testament. He says:

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

And

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.
Then the death of Osama bin Laden prompted me to read a little of his history, and I read this on Wikipedia:

It was after this bombing that al-Qaeda was reported to have developed its justification for the killing of innocent people. According to a fatwa issued by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, the killing of someone standing near the enemy is justified because any innocent bystander will find their proper reward in death, going to Jannah (Paradise) if they were good Muslims and to Jahannam (hell) if they were bad or non-believers.[81] The fatwa was issued to al-Qaeda members but not the general public.
Sounds nigh-on identical, doesn't it? In his article, Craig also attempts to differentiate his philosophy from that of the Jihadists. Frankly, I don't see how the supposed reason for the genocide (maintaining purity) and that of the Jihadis differ. Aren't they also "protecting" their religion from contamination and apostacy? And I don't buy the whole "our god loves everyone" schtick. The god depicted in the Old Testament is definitely partisan, favoring his worshippers over everyone else. The whole love angle came far later with Christianity, which interjected it from pagan sources.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Asking Alexandria - Final Episode...OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!



Following my last two music posts, here's something at the very least refreshingly secular...



From their debut album, Stand Up and Scream. Lyrics:

Oh my God.
Oh my God.
If only he knew,
If only he knew,
If only he knew about the world without the bullshit and the lies,
We could have saved him.
They could have saved me.
But instead I'm here drowning in my own fucking mind,
And I'll be damned if you're the death of me.

Blood and ink stain the walls.
Silently with bloodied knuckles, I carry on
Hoping it's not too wrong.
You said the nights were far too long.
'Honey, it's just the start of it.'

Oh my God.
If only he knew.
Oh my God.
If only he knew.
If only he knew!
If only he knew.

Just stand up and scream.
The tainted clock is counting down.
(Faster and fast!)
You gave in to me.
Would you say the nights are far too long now?
(Faster, faster and fast!)

Oh my God!
Oh my fucking God!

The tears that stain my cheek must make me look weak!
I wear them proudly!
I wear them proud!


Just stand up and scream.
The tainted clock is counting down.
(Faster and fast!)
You gave in to me.
Would you say the nights are far too long now?
(Faster, faster and fast!)

Your knife,
My back!
My gun,
Your head!
[x2]

You need a doctor baby,
You scared?
You need a doctor baby,
You scared?
You need a doctor baby,
You scared?
You need a doctor baby,
You scared,
You scared,
You scared!
Yeah!
You need a doctor baby,
You scared!
You need a doctor baby,
You scared!
You need a doctor baby!
You need a doctor baby!
You scared!


OH MY FUCKING GOD this is a great song. I think I'm making it this blog's unofficial anthem :)

Just to squeeze some anti-stupidity sentiment from it, does anyone else hear this line:

If only he knew about the world without the bullshit and the lies
...and just find themselves thinking "creotards..."?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sabbath School 9/04/11 - P.C. Jesus

Heard someone try to give a defense of Original Sin last Sabbath. It went something like:
Imagine you catch a thief in the act of breaking into a car. The thief runs away and you remain guarding the car. When the police arrive, would they not be justified in holding you under suspicion? It would be up to you to prove your innocence.
That won't work for one reason in particular: God is meant to be omnipotent, no? The two characters being equated here, the police and the supposedly all-knowing, all seeing, ever just deity, do not possess the same qualities. Given this, we are still left with the image of a vengeful, malicious, short-sighted god.

Original sin is, without a doubt, one of the most repulsive doctrines of Xianity. I have heard it argued by very ordinary, average Christians, that a child born to sinful parents who died at birth or young age would be judged according to its parents' sins and burn, with justification given by the numerous passages in the Old Testament that state that the sins of the fathers are visited upon down to the third and fourth generations. To top it off, I remember once a little debate I had with a lady friend over the morality of God wiping out the entire population of Sodom and Gomorrah. I said that even ascribing to the bigoted view you have ascribed to God that homosexuality is the worst sin imaginable and that the women of Sodom were equally as evil as the men, you simply cannot justify punishing the children as well. Know what she said? The children were evil as well.

And this was a normal, fun loving, otherwise caring and empathetic young woman! She couldn't see beyond the narrow-minded view she had been fed her entire life and see the utter objectionability of what she had just said. This is the same kind of reasoning that causes much emotional suffering and, I believe, permanent scarring to young children who are told that they are essentially evil, and that justifies the abuse and murder of children in Nigeria because they are "witches". This is one of the reasons I am so vehemently against religion and indoctrination.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Comment cross-post - Sadventists, badventists(Pharyngula)

Cross-posted from http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/sadventists_badventists.php, comment #65

Just want to say, even here in Africa, the Adventist church has had a propensity for producing all sorts of kookery. A few years ago in my home country, Zimbabwe, there was a breakaway movement labelled the "Fugamists" after the Shona "fugama"(to kneel) because one of their core identifying beliefs was that people should kneel every time they pray. They'd go from door to door proselytising people (I think they targeted other mainstream Adventists specifically - they probably gathered intell by lurking around neighbourhoods on Saturday mornings and noting those who left as families all immaculately dressed like), using Ellen White's writings to back themselves up.

They also believed Jesus was coming sometime in 2005 (I think) and pulled their kids from school. Needless to say, this got them in trouble with the authorities plenty times. Eventually, the date of their rapture came and they all went to some remote wilderness spot to wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, they ran out of food and water and had the authorities had to intervene.

Something similar is brewing in Botswana (where I'm currently based) with some fellows calling themselves the "Present Truth" movement. They're a bit more extreme and ultra-conservative, even boycotting services led by women, in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

By the way, I'm an apostate 4th generation SDA (still in the closet, though). My great grandfather on my mother's side was quite an Adventist trailblazer, establishing churches wherever he settled. My dad's uncle was an Adventist pastor who established his own ultra-conservative sect (though it did stay within the fold - they were more concerned with morality issues).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Adventist Review - La Sierra University Granted Window to Show its Faithfulness to Church’s Creation Belief

Three days ago, this article appeared on the site for the Adventist Review, "The flagship journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church". Some may remember the fracas over La Sierra University science faculty teaching science instead of church-endorsed myth that got a lot of people all heated up and ready to burn those evilutionist professors at the stake. Well, the university finally bowed to pressure and announced it would comply with the church's demands. The article I've linked to reports that the university has been given until the second quarter of next year to show its compliance with church dogma by the Adventist Accrediting Association.

I find it kind of ironic that people who clamor for science curricula to "teach the controversy" are so close minded themsselves when it comes to a scientific theory that has been studied, ratified and approved by the majority of biological scientists in the world. Church heads should never have the right to dictate what science professors teach in their lecture halls. Outside of church-affiliated organisations, I doubt La Sierra graduates are able to get a job anywhere.

Heidevolk - Ostara

Today's little ditty comes from Dutch folk metal band Heidevolk...



From their album Uit Oude Grond.

Lyrics (Dutch):

In het veld gehuld, in mist en kou
Schijnt een glinstering, in de dauw
Als de hemel kleurt van zwart naart blauw
Ostara
In het oosten waar de nacht begon
Ontwaakt het licht der morgenzon
Haar ochtend zegent onze bron
Ostara

In de vroegte, als de dag begint
En de zon het sterrenveld verblindt
Als de lente winter overwint
Ostara
Bij de dageraad, door ans aanschouwd
Baant zonlicht zich een pad von goud
Door de kille nevels in het woud
Ostara

Nacht en dag bereiken evenwicht
Langverwachte terugkeer van het licht
Als de zon herrijst en kou verdwijnt
En het levenslicht het land beschijnt
Voel de warmte in de morgenstond
Weelderig groen ontspruit uit koude grond
Als het Saksisch volk de zon begroet
Op de heuvels badend in haar gloed
Lyrics (English):

in the field covered, in fog and cold
shines a sparkle, in the dew
when heaven colors from black to blue
Ostara (spring)
in the east where the night began
wakes the light of morningsun
her morning blesses our well
Ostara

early in the morning, when the day begins
and when the sun blinds the starfield
when spring conquers winter
Ostara
at dawn, seen by us
opens sunlight a path of gold
through the chilly fog in the woods
Ostara

night and day reaches balance
long expected return of the light
when the sun returns and cold vanishes
and the light of life shines on the soil
feel the warmth in the morning
abundant green shoots from cold soil
when the Saxon people greets the sun
on the hills bathing in her glow

As many may know, according to the sources the fictional Jewish Zombie's death occured around the time of the Jewish Passover. Now, all know the Catholic church's method of converting the pagan cultures consisted of a mixture of brute-force coercion and cultural assimilation, so the chronological equivalent they found to their Zombie Master's death and resurrection was the Spring fertility celebration, Ostara - Ēostre in the Anglo-Saxon dialect. And thus Easter was born.

So, always remember...

Nacht en dag bereiken evenwicht,


night and day reaches balance


...is the real reason for the Easter season.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reading Hercolubus

As I said earlier, I've been reading Hercolubus or Red Planet by V.M. Rabolu. I'd have finished it in less than an hour had I tried but I just had to take a long break to avoid bursting my sides with laughter. The book is just full of the most ludicrous and absurd New Agey and anti-science woo-woo man has ever seen. Or I've ever seen. I've kept my interaction with stupidity to a minimum since I became a skeptic.

Rabolu obviously has(or had - he's dead) something against "those we falsely call scientists" - and it shows: he has absolutely no scientific knowledge whatsoever. Take the section "Nuclear Tests And The Ocean". He talks about the sea being in contact with "the fire within the Earth" and causing cyclones and earthquakes. The consequence of this will be the Earth sinking into its ocean. How a planet sinks into its own ocean is beyond me. Maybe he's a flat-earther too? Somehow, getting cooked isn't the worst consequence of the boiling of the oceans, but darkness and planes not being able to fly is. Yah. And the sea is also apparently a living organism that breathes and contaminates our air.



Rabolu's description of the consequences of undersea nuclear testing (which was banned in 1996, by the way) sounds like he learnt it from The Simpsons... you know, the three eyed fish, laser vision squirrels and tentacled trees that live in Springfield? Apparently, something like that is happening in our own oceans. And Rabolu's sea monsters can't be destroyed by mere bullets. They "developed from atomic energy", therefore they are "atomic".

The real laughbucket of the book is the section on extraterrestrials. He apparently thinks sci-fi movies are in fact polemic documentaries produced by the despicable North Americans. He obviously knows better of course - he's actually been to Venus and Mars.



For some reason, the picture of physical perfection the Venusians possess sounds a lot like miniature versions of Hitler's Aryan race - blonde hair and blue eyes, only 1.3-1.4 metres tall. Rabolu's description of ET life contains some of the oddest, most useless details, from belts that flash like lighthouses to the fact that they grow trees on their house roofs. He also seems to think fish are not meat - take this quote about the Venusians' dietary habits:

From there, they go to machines, where the fish are pulverised and more natural vitamins are added [as opposed to artificial ones?]. This is another of their foods. The same is done with vegetables. No one eats any kind of meat there.



After this graphic description of the fishes' evisceration, we are told they do not eat meat of any kind? Lol.

The Venusians can also control weather with their thoughts. I'm wondering - everyone has different tastes of the weather, so how do they sort each other out? Do they take turns?

I guess what is meant to be the most important part of the book is the esoterica on death and astral projection that comes at the end. That's where the mantras come in, and Rabolu instructs us on how we can do what he can too, and see Mars and Venus and the alien spaceships and the Red Planet itself. The cornerstone of his projection techniques are the mantras: La Ra S and Fa Ra On. I'm a bit surprised there were no drugs involved.


I did not at all take Hercolubus seriously - it's very difficult to, many may agree. Especially when I'm rhyming like I'm under an apple tree. The sad thing is that some people buy this stuff - obviously very rich people too, who are financing the whole free book thing (small wonder they don't ask for peoples' money like others of their ilk - they've already snagged some pretty big fish). In a few years, the whole 2012 catastrophism thing will have blown over and its sheep will have moved on to whatever new woo will be fashionable at the time. Unfortunately, the damage will already have been done and some well-meaning, philanthropical soul will already have had his money blown on some stupid piece of stupidity instead of giving their money to real world causes. I hope someone investigates the Alcione organisation, which is perpetuating all this nonsense and exposes them for the frauds they really are.

EDIT: You can still order the book for free from www.hercolubus.tv.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hercolubus or Red Planet

Got my copy in the mail yesterday evening.


Photobucket

It's a short book, and I'm already half way through it. What a lollercoster those chapters I've read have been. I'll post what I think about it when I'm done.

You can request a copy of the book here. It's free, so why not?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Behemoth - No Sympathy For Fools

I feel I must, after last week's secrilege, atone for my sin against Athe. Therefore:



From their album Zos Kia Cultus

Lrics:

FOOLS! I cast you all aside!
Your bullets harm me not
I am heresy, blazing hell
The embodiment ov all you fear
I am all which you can never be
A truth revealing hate machine
No longer will I tolerate
Lies from a kingdom built on dread
Yet what if naught exists above?
No shining glory and no god
You question not, blindly believe
Upon your ignorance I shall feast
Damn higher virtues, divine love
Your wooden idols and your law
Kneel before your god yet do not see
He doth feel you lies

[ From: http://www.metrolyrics.com/no-sympathy-for-fools-lyrics-behemoth.html ]

Blinds you with fear
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth
Your hearts I shall tear
With paws ov truth
With slashing jaws I rape
Your feeble womb
No god exists to save you from thy doom

You will never see the light!
Bound to always live by lies!


This is what I listen too when I'm kind of both pissed of and bewildered by the antics of the religious folk surrounding me. The lyrics,


Fools!

I cast you all aside!


also convey a sense of I am not one of them, which is something I find myself thinking a lot when I'm out with them in public or on their "community outreach" drives.

As some may know,Behemoth is a Blackened Death Metal band that extensively uses Satanic and Thelemic themes in their music, so it isn't quite the paragon of atheisticness either. However, just like with The Devil Wears Prada I can find elements in their music which I can identify with (though I may not exactly wish to perform certain of the acts in the song).

I have found myself gravitating towards heavier music of late, particularly Death Metal and Black Metal acts, many of which, like Dimmu Borgir, Hellhammer and Venom to name but a few, use occult themes. Many, though, have identified themselves a s atheists or simply anti-religionists who use Satanism because of its popularity, its use as a conduit for their anti-religious lyrics or simply for its shock value (which is why most people, myself included, listen to those bands. There is nothing more hilarious than the look on the face of a hitchhiker you've picked up in your car when you start playing Death Metal on the radio while dressed up all black, in a band T-shirt and some skull jewellery. Try it sometime). And I like listening to any music that trashes the highly opressive middle eastern religions that are so popular today (and so does Diego Lecca of Su Nombre en Vano - some time ago, he posted a pagan metal song on Facebook with an awesome cross chopping scene at the end).

So, I'd like to know, what do other atheists think about this? Do you think it's OK to listen to pagan and satanic songs and cite them publicly as representing your own anti- or a-theistic views? Is it OK to listen to any religious music? For those who cannot identify with my metal addiction, I'm sure you are aware of some classical music written with a religious agenda (Handel's Messiah is one of my personal favorites) or may enjoy the odd carol during Christmas. What are your views on this?

I've set up a poll in the right margin of the blog. Please do vote, and comment to tell me your views. I know, though, that the beauty of atheism is that there is no central dogmatic authority that tells others what to do, so whatever you have to say will have no bearing whatsoever on any decision I make (:P). I'd just like to hear your opinion on it, is all.


Behemoth"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada - HTML Rulez d00d





Lyrics:

Oh and yet, I've been cleansed.

And yet I've been cleansed with the water.
A purity no mind can grasp.
A purity so cool upon my fingertips.

The vision that I have seen.
This is the action that spawns from the end.
For the longest time, I've been watching the world breathe again.

What lies here.
What lies here,
Are mountains composed of tombstones, tombstones, tombstones, tombstones.

Examine these beautiful faces, keep singing now, keep singing now.
Examine these beautiful faces, keep singing now.
Examine these beautiful faces. Oh.

Will we push bedlam noise to the state of blissfulness?
Display her beauty to the people, to the people. Oh.

A purity no mind can grasp.
From their album Plagues.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my vice, my drug, my one greatest pitfall. A simple glance at the lyrics above will tell you on what end of the religious spectrum this band lies. Yah.

But how, how can an anti-religious angry young man like myself even countenance something so egregiously jebus crastian and, even worse, actually enjoy it? Fact is, I love metalcore in general and tend to focus more on the musical styles and the feelings evoked by them more than the actual lyrical content. HTML Rulez was really the first metalcore track I listened to and the one that got me hooked. The song was perfect: Mike Hranica's deathly screams counterpointed beautifully with Jeremy dePoyster's almost angelic clean vocals, that "thoom thoom thoom" p;ercussion in the middle and the vicious breakdown at the end just had me in the music's thrall from the very beginning.

The thing I like about TDWP most is how ambiguous most of their lyrics are. You'll get the occassional "Christ is the deduction" and stuff, but generally you'll just get fuzzy, almost deist proclamations like "all glory to the one in existence", "all of love can be traced to a maker" and so on. This is a really good thing as it takes a very small mental flip to turn them into anthems for my favorite sci-fi/fantasy franchise, Warhammer 40,000. In fact, I recently made a mental exercise of matching each of the books in the Gaunt's Ghosts series with a song by TDWP. HTML Rulez d00d got Sabbat Martyr, for example (which I'll be ranting about later).

Another thing is, I can also agree with a lot of their lyrics too. The band's name was meant to be anit-materialistic (as in possessions materialistic) and I kind of concur with that. Also, lyrics like "the concept of fashion(...) painting a portrait of convictionless existence" and "Emeralds hold no hope" are quite profoundly agreeable. All in all, I'll say that good music knows no boundaries, be they political, cultural or religious. Until they start saying stuff like "teach the controversy", "you're going to burn in hell while we're chilling with Jesus" or "god hates faggots/atheists/evilutionists" or whatever is the day I'll stop listening to them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sabbath School 12/03/11 - Satan Takes the Pulpit

Last Friday evening I was blindsided, tricked, coerced, fucking ninja'd into presenting on the next day's Sabbath School. It was Family Life Day and my parents are the directors of the church's family life department, so our family was taking the day. As I said, there was no warning, just an announcement around five-thirty that evening. You would not believe how little I cared for that shit. I just sat there doing nothing, almost swearing that this is where it would go down, this is where the gauntlet would be thrown, the buck would stop, the hammer would fall and I would finally come out and tell them just what I believed, whether they liked it or not. But I ended up reasonig "hell, what will it hurt me to pick up some random book and recite some rote piece of bullcrap at the congregation." The rote piece of bullcrap was from Ellen G. White's The Adventist Home.

I picked "Children in the Home" as my topic, reading from Section XI. It basically codifies the Adventist child rearing philosophy. There is a lot in there I can agree with, including the importance of children helping around the home and things like that, but there is a lot I cannot. There is a very strong emphasis on gender roles, for example, but it is an old book, written when such views were universal. Unfortunately, though, a lot of Adventists (most especially here in Africa) still follow its words as law. The importance of "raising children in the Lord" is also heavily emphasised.

So I ended up doing it, and making it quite convincing, too, adding a few interjections of my own. I have discovered that it's quite easy to lie to a bunch of people whose opinion you don't give a flying donkey's ass about. The crunch came when we were expected to fast on that day, but I had breakfast anyway and managed to sneak in a couple of Bar Ones I stretched to satisfy me the whole afternoon.

***

P.S. Please check out the entries for the Astronomican Winter Contest! My fiction entry is somewhere in there. I'm not at liberty to reveal which one's mine yet. Try guess which it is!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake & Elenin

News Story

The Elenin nuts are going to give me no end of pain...


Hope the death toll wasn't too high, but what with Japan being the most earthquake ready nation on Earth, I don't think it will.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Godsmack - Bad Religion



From their album Godsmack.

Lyrics:

[Preacher:] The word of God says that we will recieve
praise of God. God will begin to speak forth, our
Righteousness is of him, sayith the Lord
[Music Begins]

Get back

Can you feel Im not like you anymore.
I cant see,
I cant breathe.
See you quiver like the dogs on the street,
Looking down on as I beat you.

Oh, its a bad religion,
From a broken nation.
Its a contradiction,
And I cant take it anymore, yeah.

Who's to say I wont like you anyway?
Take a deep breath,
Im alive.
Can you hear me,
Im alive inside you.
Agony creeps up behind you.>

Oh, Its a bad religion (Bad religion)
From a broken nation (A broken nation)
Its a contradiction,
And I cant take it any f***ing way

Its a bad religion (bad religion, bad religion, bad religion)
From a broken nation (Broken nation)
Its a contradiction.
Yeah.

Can you feel it?
I gotta live with it everyday
And I cant take the pressure.
Im goin' insane,
Now go away

Go away

[Preacher:] Now you start praising God where ever you
are. I dont care where you are, I dont care what is
happening, just begin to praise God, just begin to
praise him and praise him and praise him and praise
him and worship him, and bless him... [Trails off]

(courtesy of Lyricsmania)

Too true...

I feel this song typifies my experience as a closet atheist, especially this part:

Can you feel it?
I gotta live with it everyday
And I cant take the pressure.
Im goin' insane,
Now go away

Church every week, my achievements (my fucking blood, sweat and tears! I didn't fucking pray once to pass my exams) being belittled by being attributed to "God", watching my younger brothers being brainwashed and family prayers day after day after fucking day! It really is enough to drive a guy insane! Listening to something that my mind interprets as being about someone sharing my experience certainly helps to bleed some of the pressure off.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's So Funny Indeed - Part 2

Two days ago, I wrote about this article in a blog post titled "What's So Funny Indeed", in which I talked about the importace of evidence. The author of the article chose to close with a statement I feel deserves to be adressed. The statement went thus:

There is a common thread to these stories, it seems to me; and others like them. That thread is that the acknowledgment of the God of heaven is considered so sensible that disbelief, doubt, and infidelity are contrasted as practically comical.

It should therefore not surprise anyone that disbelief is labeled by the psalmist as foolish. What is not funny, however, is that foolishness, almost by definition, is quite misleading; and when we choose to engage in it (as regards disbelief in God)--as is our God-given right--we are misled into ironically believing, of all things, that this is actually a sign of intelligent reasoning.

If it weren’t for the immediate consequences of disobedience and the eternal consequences of disbelief, it would all perhaps be funny.

I get this banality a lot from Christian friends and occassional correspondences on the 'net, typically with a quote of Proverbs 14:12:

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
As I interpret it, I think this argument posits that human reasoning is imperfect, therefore it cannot be used to obtain a clear picture of reality, the supernatural and so on. But, I'll ask, if not rationality, then what? Are we supposed to take it all on faith?

Most Christians, when I ask them say that I am required to take what they say by faith. The argument that we are simply supposed to take the bible's teachings by faith is fraught with much peril, though. It teakes for granted that Christianity is the only religion and that the person to whom it is being made is Christian. Well, Christianity is only one among many religions, and each of them requires the same of its adherents: faith. There is not a single argument in favour of Christianity that does not apply to or has not found use in any of the other religions in the world, particularly the major religions which virtually have armies of people all working towards making their religion more palatable to others.

When I point out the similarity of Christianity with other religions, people tend try to persuade me to return to the religion I was born into. Return to the truth you were raised in, they say. This seems like a very good argument to most, who tend to have no knowledge of any other religion or viewpoint, having been sheltered and nursed exclusively within the faith. These people tend to overlook anther thing: if this argument ought to work with me, won't it work for and similarly apply to members of other religions? How, then, if we are to remain with the belief we were raised in, do they expect to woo others to their own religion? Once again, this is an argument that, if valid, applies equally to all religions.

Our reason may not be perfect, but in the face of all these conflicting religions spouting the same claims it's the best thing we've got. I see no real worth in this argument, save perhaps as something the faithful tell each other to comfort themselves.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's So Funny Indeed

Just read this blog article on the Adventist Today site, home of a "progressive Adventist" publication, talking about some funny stuff in the Bible. The author states that his favorite "funny" Bible stories is the story of Job. I quite agree with him. The story of Job is quite hilarious:



And we agree on which part's the funniest:

After questioning God's decisions, Job is asked by God where he was while God conducted His Creative activities. It was as if God was saying, "You've got a lot of nerve, young man, questioning my wisdom and sovereignty. Do you know who you're talking to? But, tell you what...I'll answer your questions, if you will answer mine." You gotta love a God like that, don't you?

He kills Job's kids, destroys his possessions and gives him herpes all over and still has the fortitude to waggle his finger at Job. Yeah, really great guy, this God dude.

But there's another point to be had here:

Another favorite of course would have to be the story of Elijah actually taunting and teasing the prophets of Baal and their god(s). This taunting was hilarious; remember... "maybe your god is sleeping"? How funny is that?! Elijah was totally confident that the prophets of Baal were praying to... absolutely nobody, and that he, on the other hand, was praying to the true and living God--who would reward his cockiness, no less. I mean, he wanted water everywhere. He was actually "showing off" (as my mother would say); and then God Himself showed off, rewarding Elijah's faith while simultaneously shaming the heathens. What a sense of humor!

So in this story, Elijah was an atheist - an a-baal-ist - and challenged the prophets of Baal with providing evidence for the presence of their god. So, if this fellow asked for evidence from the prophets of Baal, is it unreasonable for us atheists who do not believe not only in Baal but all other gods, Yahweh/Jehovah included, to ask for evidence of them?

It's also a valid question to wonder why Yahweh used to perform such signs and wonders as this but no longer does. Thousands of miracles are written about in the bible and each is depicted as flamboyant and unambiguously a supernatural act. Why is it that such displays no longer occur? Why is it that the "miracles" of today are either unverifiable or can just as easily (and more credibly) be explained as placebo effects or natural occurrences that are not well understood, or even simply as chance occurrences that when viewed through the blinkers of faith seem miraculous?

The gauntlet has been thrown down on many occasions, not least of which is James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge, which covers any supernatural occurrence. No one has yet produced conclusive proof and successfully claimed the prize. Whenever people place their health "in the hands of God", it tends to end badly and most Christians submit themselves to proper medical treatment. Is this a sign that they are not fully convinced of their god's healing powers?

We could organise a challenge like this. We could have, maybe, two cancer patients in the early stages of illness, one receiving medical treatment and the other the fervent prayers of his family, friends, church community, hell, even the whole world and see who gets better. But such a challenge would be unethical in much the same way as those who deny their children medical treatment behave unethically. And their track record is evidence enough to dispel any supernatural notions.